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Azerbaijan: Officials Still Searching for Hijab Protest Planners

Two weeks after a surprise pro-hijab protest by scores of Muslim believers outside Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Education, authorities are still trying to figure out who organized the show of defiance.

Protesters on May 6, nearly all young men, called for the resignation of Education Minister Misir Mardanov over the informal ban on wearing hijabs in schools and universities. The demonstration culminated in a melee, with truncheon-wielding police battling protesters for about an hour before order could be restored.

It was the second unauthorized mass protest against Azerbaijan’s unofficial hijab policy since December 2010, when roughly 1,000 believers staged similar protests outside the ministry.

Forty-five so-called “radical believers” were arrested during the May 6 protest, according to Interior Ministry spokesperson Ekhsan Zahidov. Forty detainees were released the next morning, while the remaining five were jailed for 12-15 days on administrative charges of hooliganism, resisting arrest and disturbing public order.

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Shahin Abbasov is a freelance journalist based in Baku and a board member of the Open Society Assistance Foundation-Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan: Officials Still Searching for Hijab Protest Planners

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